31 May 2010

Crossover appeal

If you're not interested in the cultural positioning of music in the twenty-first century, then this article won't interest you a whit. But since it does me, there's a fair amount to chew on in this seemingly light exchange. And this paragraph, especially as a person who really aims to play a wide variety of music for work, really stands out:
Sometimes when classical musicians, especially instrumentalists, play jazz or rock, the problem comes with their approach to rhythm. They mimic the jazzy swing style but lack the requisite quality of relaxation. When Duke Ellington and Art Tatum played, no matter how complex and driving the rhythm, they sounded relaxed. Not so Itzhak Perlman when he tries to swing.
If Scott the earnest musician were to receive a report card of his leadership at work yesterday, it would read something like: "Cantor Rohr was well prepared (especially for a holiday weekend right after a major festival Sunday), led a number of people and music styles ably, but lacks the requisite quality of relaxation."

The Glorious Ascent: Mandate #3

Not all our mandates can be esoteric, full of deep thoughts and hope for the world.

Exercise daily.

Since recovering from surgery, I can't seem to spend enough time outdoors. I prefer movement to sitting, sunshine to indoors, wellness to stupor. I'm no fitness machine, but morning hour-long walks have become a necessary way to start the day, I'm running several days a week, and I'm walking as a general part of life: to the store, to the bus (a tease for Mandate #4), on errands. I've also started tennis lessons, which at only once a week aren't going to change my life, but am planning to start match play through Tennis Minneapolis. I have plans for some hiking this summer, my workplace kickball team starts next week, and I'm going to buy a baseball mitt so that lesbians will play catch with me. Rudy the Big Red Bike is a steady companion, and a little gardening is part of the mix, too. When bad weather sets in, my punch card for rock climbing at Vertical Endeavors will come in handy.

Slovenly no more, I am, always and devotedly yours,


29 May 2010

The Glorious Ascent: Mandate #2

Friends First.

My mother, upon learning of my breakup (sorry if I've never mentioned it before), said, "Think how lucky you are to have so many friends. I've never met anyone who has more good friends than you do." And how. I knew it all along, but the last few months have reminded me—in a concrete, overwhelming way—just how lucky I am. Yesterday I sat and talked with one of my favorite people on earth for about two hours, sitting outside Java Jack's enjoying the sunshine and coffee, and I could hardly believe my good fortune. And that's just one moment of many since the dark days of winter. In fact, I arranged all my friends' initials randomly (even though some repeat), and came up with this many letters: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ.

I aim to spend the next years of my life trying to be as good a friend to all of you as you have been to me. I can't wait to have you over for dinner and drinks and conversation, often and forever, not simply to repay the many kindnesses you have shown me throughout my annus horribilis, but because my life is as fun as it is because of the smart, quirky, talented people I count as friends.

28 May 2010


The invitation for this afternoon's wedding rehearsal and dinner instructed us to dress for a luau. I am not a person of the Hawaiian shirt. I am, however, a person of the bespoke linen pocket square, hula dancer and all. Thanks to foster mom for the box pleat.

27 May 2010

The Glorious Ascent: Mandate #1

First, let's acknowledge that this new series sounds a lot like North Korean propaganda. Which I love. Think of me as your very own gentle and supreme leader, but perhaps without the scary predilections of Kim Jong-il.

So, the first of nine Mandates (A dear reader suggested Prospects, which I quite like, but I need a firmer tone if I'm going to make it through this next chapter):

Be Present.

I promise I'm not getting all new age-y on you. It occurs to me, however, that it is quite easy for me (and maybe you?) to spend much time thinking about the last few months (and for that matter, the last eight years), analyzing what went wrong, what could have been different, blah, blah, blah. Similarly, I can spin my hamster cage wheel frenetically as I think about what's next: where I'll live, will I get a PhD, will I fall in love, will I be happy, can I make it as a single person. It's forward-thinking, but it's still anxiety-producing blah, blah, blah.

As I walked around the lake last night, under a perfect moon, with people laughing and talking, I remembered how many great things there are in my life right now. Besides the moon and the lake. Friends and family and books and cookies and textiles. I can't let the shadows of the past or the scariness of the future obscure the contentment I have within reach right here, right now. Neither can you. As we come upon a beautiful holiday weekend, doesn't it seem like a perfect time to revel in the now? I'll start.

26 May 2010

Turning a corner

I've got my hands in the 10 and 2 positions, and I'm gripping the wheel tightly, but dang this is a curvy road. I don't dare let my focus wander enough to contemplate anything so frivolous as blogging.

Okay, enough with the driving metaphor. But, several people have mentioned that I seem to have turned a (the?) proverbial corner the last two or three weeks, and I would have to agree. My outlook is different, if subtly. I find myself more focused on the future than on the past. I am determined to have permanent housing this summer (more on that as developments warrant). I am setting goals—financial, personal, musical, professional—to live the kind of life I want to live, and that feels good and right and just to live. While I'm not going to start filling notebooks with my personal manifesto, stashing them in my log cabin until I go completely crazy, there are some basic values that I intend to guide my glorious ascent into middle age. Perhaps the last chapter in my life has been fair warning, or cautionary tale, but I intend to learn from it. And even worse for you, I intend to unpack it all for you right here, in a new occasional blog feature: Scott's Mandates for a Non-Sucky Life. To begin, let's come up with a better title.

23 May 2010

What's up?

Not a damn thing. Except that I've gained three pounds this week, thanks to the generous people and the eating. Choir party tonight, then it's time to stuff a sock in it. Oh, and I signed up for a non-competitive tennis league, which basically means tennis if you're really bad. I'm hoping to play my first match this week.

Sometimes it's best just not to blog. Back to the humidity.

20 May 2010

Added to the library

tinkers, by Paul Harding. Magers & Quinn finally received its shipment of this year's surprise Pulitzer winner. This is Harding's first novel, and the small Bellevue Literary Press was not prepared, inventory-wise, to have a Pulitzer winner on its hands.

Coop: A Family, a Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg, by Michael Perry. I'm fairly certain this book was written just for me, and having read just a few pages on the ride home from work, I'm more convinced than ever that some of the best writing in America happens in Wisconsin.

I suppose I should back up a few weeks if I'm going to list additions to the library. Yay or nay? Books have always been an irresistible pull, and right now they have the added benefit of being both comfort and distraction, so the stack next to the bed continues to grow.

Transcending food

During one of my recent stops on Scott's Trail o' Tears, I had a little surgical procedure. A nip here, a tuck there, and voila, no more nasty gangrenous tonsils. During that time I pigged out on ice chips, broth, and baby food, losing several pounds. People kept asking if I was hungry, and really I wasn't. Partly because I felt so crappy, but also, and more importantly, because I had become one with the universe and had no need of the common things that mortals require to sustain them.

That time is past, and I am famished. All the time. I am determined to keep the weight off, and lose more besides, and have been exercising quite a bit in an effort to a) lower my cholesterol; b) increase my fitness and endurance; and c) not still be single when I'm 50 (which is a long way off, snarky mean people). Anyhoo.

The biggest problem (and what a problem to have) is all the nice people. I've had two fabulous dinners this week at friends' homes, a couple more coming up, lunch dates more days than not, all because my friends are generous and good and caring. It's been great fun, and I don't want it to stop. I just have to run like the wind. And walk. And bike. And play tennis. And climb. As exhausting as it is to know me? It's almost as exhausting to be me.

18 May 2010


So it turns out I might have a little bit of a life. While details must still be finalized (like how the hell I'll afford it), I have the following trips in the hopper over the coming months:

  • mid-June: Chicago, for a planning retreat with fellow extraordinary musician (he's extraordinary, I'm just a hanger-on)
  • late June: North Shore, hiking with the Prof Ks
  • July: Montana, to visit the parents, and some more of the hiking
  • August: New York, for a college friend fiesta
  • September: Amsterdam and Paris, reacquainting myself with two favorite cities and one favorite friend
  • January: Sedona with the foster parents
  • late winter: Cape Town, South Africa, to see the Prof Ks in exile

17 May 2010

Home. Sick.

Reading  Dominique Brown's review in the Times of Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House, by Meghan Daum, I had no choice but to stew on (about? in?) the ridiculous bouts of homesickness I've experienced of late. Isn't it a strange feeling, seeing or hearing or even smelling some thing, seemingly innocuous, and having it set off an almost physical wave of longing? We can all recognize the feeling as homesickness, ineffable though it may be. Not a big surprise that the phenomenon has been a regular feature of my life the last few months. The surprise has been just what I've been homesick about and for (I couldn't do that without a preposition at the end, so I used two). The simple act of displacement, of a "new life" (whatever the hell that means) seems to have triggered all sorts of notions of domestic life, of memories both fond and not, that recall the umpteen homes of my life.

The obvious moments are for the home just past. Walking by the condo this morning to pick up my car (yes, we have joint custody of Ingrid, for now), I saw my porch, the table and chairs at which I have spent so many hours, chatting with neighbors and friends who have dropped by, the (too many) planters now empty, waiting for me, I guess. I was so unprepared for the physical sensation of that flood of memories I found myself sucking air to continue on to the parking garage.

Even more random: listening to a recording of the great Norwegian-Italian soprano Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz singing Mozart unaccountably led me back to the beautiful backyard gardens a previous (sigh) ex and I had worked so hard to create. A dozen years later, I wanted to be sitting on the back stoop, admiring the clematis laden with giant purple blooms trained along the fence.

Thinking about a trip this summer, to the scenes of my childhood in Montana, has me longing to hike, climbing through the pines to emerge on some rocky shelf, breathing in that crisp, thin air that can only mean one thing: I am home.

There is no going back; I know that. Home is what we make it now, and this temporary, unsettled state of mine will pass; I will be ensconced somewhere I am happy to call home. Books and friends and my piano and pots of flowers and good food and love will surround me. But I hope that I never lose those moments where I come face to memory with homes past, memories that have piled one on top of another, like a haphazard sheaf of papers stuck in too small a drawer. A teak drawer, in a mid-century Danish hutch, in a dining room looking out on the herb garden, with the dog wagging his tail to come in, and a pot of soup bubbling on the stove. Sorry to cut this short, but the doorbell just rang; my guests have arrived.

16 May 2010

A writing discipline

I thought it might be an interesting, even noble, challenge to compose a blog post without using a single first-person pronoun, but.

15 May 2010

In which the thoughts are random

Shall we?

  • First off, I'm not thrilled that bulleted and numbered lists are my only option in dumb ol' blogger.
  • I don't know about you, but after the recent rainy season (it's as if we've been living in a Jhumpa Lahiri short story), I feel like if I'm not outside all the time I'm somehow squandering my life. The path around Lake Harriet has become like a hamster cage: must. keep. moving. (Speaking of hamsters, I do have a little issue with this.
  • As I was eating dinner tonight—essentially undoing the day's two and a half hours of exercise—I contemplated just how much I loathe 50th and ShoppeShop. So much collagen, so many capri pants.
  • Let's talk about the couple across the aisle from me at moderately-expensive-for-what-it-is Italian convenience chain (yeah, d'Amico): he's in a mint green cotton sweater, and the kind of glasses that let you know he's a high-powered jerk but thinks the specs make him look hip to the secretaries he's banging. She's in black, and her lips are permanently pursed, and her lightweight lavender cashmere cardigan is neatly tied around her shoulders. They've been waiting for their food approximately three seconds. JerkMan: How long are we supposed to sit here and wait? Botoxia: What else do we have to do? JM: Not sit here. Such romance.
  • Another pair, starboard. He's mid-thirties, kind of bland, but kind of hot. She's pushing 70, and needs to schedule an appointment for her roots, pronto. I think about how nice it is that he's taking mom out on a Saturday night. Then they lean in and kiss, and there's tongue. Not really, but I thought that would have been a great story.
  • I have played for a lot of weddings. I have attended a lot of weddings. I'm 42. I can count on one hand the number of weddings I haven't found mostly heinous. Today it was fake white twigs with orchids glued to them, in giant silver urns, on plant stands covered in tulle. And this was an expensive wedding: the bride was in about seven thousand bucks' worth of of tight-fitting Monique Lhuillier. And yet she still wanted Canon in D. I made sure to do one round in d minor.
  • If I'm reading an entertaining memoir for the masses, I want a few pictures. I want to see Pablo Casals playing four-hand piano with Queen Marîa Cristina (and I know that's the wrong mark on the i, but I don't remember all my key commands right now). Also, I don't want conjecture. I don't want to be told that "during the journey home, Bach's thoughts would have turned to his wife, Maria Barbara, and their four young children," just so the author can set up the tragedy of Bach showing up home after a month at the spa to find out that, oops, Maria died. 
  • You know where white boards look really nice? That's right, nowhere. Least of all as part of an upscale shop's window display with a really tortured rhyme advertising a sale. I simply have to stay away from that intersection.

13 May 2010

Turned-on Bach

Piano club—a monthly performance group that a half dozen of us have maintained for over eight years—met tonight. I'm working on Bach's C minor Partita, and played the Sinfonia from it this evening (not half badly). As I was playing tonight, I had a little blast from the past: one of my favorite albums of childhood. As a little Montana gay boy, I loooooved the Swingle Singers. There, I've said it. Combining the musical maturity of my present with the unbelievable nerdiness of my childhood, I give you the Swingle Singers performing my Bach Partita. Sublime, or something.

12 May 2010

Some favorite things of late

Sorry to go all Julie Andrews on you, but a pleasant few days warrant a bit of reflection, don't you think? May my random list inspire you to waste time coming up with your own. To wit:
  • Lucia's pan-roasted chicken, which I haven't had in eons, made even better with ricotta stuffed under the skin, sitting on a potato pancake and glazed carrots, and accompanied by butterscotch cake with white chocolate mousse and ginger caramel sauce. And brilliant company.
  • 24 attempting to find its inner Bourne. Massive, albeit entertaining, fail.
  • Putting down one satisfying book and immediately finding another. Goodbye, angsty Nazi Resistance fighters. Hello, entertaining history of the cello suites.
  • Pleasantly sore muscles, indicating intense, satisfying exercise.
  • Steady progress on a sleeve.
  • Nailing the left hand trill in m. 5 of the Sinfonia of Bach's C minor Partita—an elusive but worthy goal.
  • Walking shoes for walking, running shoes for running, both allowing movement on a suspiciously swollen and painful toe.
  • Daydreaming about the little house that's—not yet, maybe someday, here's hoping—mine.

11 May 2010


Two literary posts in a row, when all you want to do is read about histrionics. So sorry (they might be fading). Last evening, at Common Good Books in St. Paul, I had the good fortune to hear excellent poet, English professor at Carleton and friend Greg Hewett read from his latest volume of poems. darkacre is not necessarily easy reading, but much of what I've read thus far is so well-structured and full of satisfying imagery that I'm easily lost in it. From a set of poems titled The Structure of Crisis, his poem about New Orleans, Consolation on Pipeline, resonates particularly today, given the gross horror we see oozing from the Gulf of Mexico's ripped-up floor. I can't share the entire work, and you can just go to a bookstore or here and buy the volume for yourself, but the opening is worth committing to memory:

Sometimes all you want to do is lean
your tired frame against the last post
still upright in the charred settlement
of your life, only the wood is mottled
red with embers and scraps of flame twist
at your feet. Hope zigzags off
to the bruised horizon
like it had been constructed
only to offer perspective.

Hewett, Greg. "Consolation on Pipeline." darkacre. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2010.

10 May 2010

The assault

From the excellent (I just finished it, so I suppose I should reflect before judging it so) 1985 Dutch novel, The Assault, by Henry Mulisch:
And then . . . and then . . . and then . . . Time passes. "That, at least, is behind us," we say, "but what still lies ahead?" The way we word it, it's as if our backs were turned to the past as we look toward the future; and that is, in fact, how we actually think of it: the future in front, the past behind. To dynamic personalities, the present is a ship that drives its bow through the rough seas of the future. To more passive ones, it is rather like a raft drifting along with the tide. There is, of course, something wrong with both these images, for if time is movement, then it must be moving through another kind of time, and the secondary time through yet another; and thus time is endlessly multiplied. This is the kind of concept that does not please philosophers, but then, inventions of the heart have little to do with those of the intellect.
Now I'm taking my aching, over-exercised (only to me is it over-exercised, believe me) self to a reading in that other city. I shall report back if interest warrants.

Minnesota matters: From Russia with . . . oh, never mind

A highlight of my culture vulture weekend (to recap: Bernadette with the Minnesota Orchestra, Compline at Saint Paul's on the Hill, a Juicy Lucy at The Nook) was my first trip to The Museum of Russian Art. I've been wanting to visit since it opened, have no reason for not going before now, and am thrilled that I finally did; 'tis terrific. Julie Snow, arguably the city's best-known architect, conceived a beautiful space out of the limitation of building out an old church. Of the exhibits, the strongest is the Soviet-era realist paintings of northern Russia (the textiles looking a tad home-sewn, and lacquer boxes making me want to throw things, things like lacquer boxes).  I appreciate a museum with a focus small enough that I needn't spend days and days there to get a sense of it, yet ambitious enough to curate the work thoughtfully. The museum manages to do both, and has been added to my circuit of Cultural Gems Worth Visiting When It Would Be Just As Easy To Stay Home And Rent A Redbox. I commend it to you for consideration.

P.S. Never think my crooked, poorly-lit iPhone snapshots are the point of any of this. We all just need to hang tight until June, when Apple had better make good on its promise of a better camera.

09 May 2010

Happiness is . . .

a day warm enough for brunch outdoors at Brit's.

How Bernadette Peters saved my life, or at the very least, my evening

Being a musician, you'd think I would understand how essentially music can move people. Truth is, I'd always been a bit uncomfortable with the notion that a single song can mean so much to one person. It seemed a bit trite, hackneyed, even weak. Until tonight.

I have tried to think of a way to describe to caring people who ask how I am, how I'm "doing with all this." This week it struck me that what I've been going through is a bit (and really only a bit; I don't want to diminish a very real and significant diagnosis) like PTSD. For the first couple months after life went to hell last summer, I simply went through the motions, giving care as best I could, trying to keep it together, to make sure someone I loved (X) would come through okay. I worried only about losing him. Then I spent a few months coming to the realization that I already had. And I interviewed for a new job, and I held my breath through the holidays and I started that new job and I screwed up the courage to leave what X and I both knew had to be left and our dog died and my home and my family and my life were gone and I had surgery and I was sick and I recovered. And last night I went out for an evening with a good friend, not on a date—though in another time or circumstance it might have been—and I sat down to enjoy the show and looked down the row and there was X arriving, not alone. And—melodramatic as this may seem to those of you snug in your ordered existences—life seemed unrepentantly cruel. And then Ms. Peters came out to wild applause and laughter and exclamations of "let me entertain you." Then it was just a piano, and a single spotlight, and she looked at me (out of all the hundreds of people in that packed hall) and she sang:

And I breathed.

08 May 2010

Reading List

Do you have a few books on your nightstand? Yeah, me too. Problem is, I keep adding to the pile stack tower, and can't seem to stop, or catch up. Sitting around with some English teacher friends a few days ago I immediately suggested book recommendations, and added to the pile. An upcoming coffee date with a smart theater prof? Please come armed with book suggestions. And to you? Yes, I'd love to know what you're reading. Please add your suggestions to the comments. I'm confident I'll get to all these books eventually; I just don't have the perfect read for right now.

07 May 2010

TU Dance at the Southern

Favorite troupe, great dance venue, best seat in the house. Thank you, Mr. C.

An app to call home

Forget the zombie games; here we have apps about plants and paint colors. I'm particularly excited to be able to take a photo of something and turn it into a paint color. Bless you Saint B. Moore. And if I'm reading the descriptions carefully, and I'm sure that I am, it says that that all I need to build the addition we've drawn for the little purple house is my iPhone! Contractors, this can't be good for you (not to worry, Jack, you can hold the iPhone).

This post is entirely for my own reference, so that I remember to download some of these apps. So sorry for the interruption. However, if you have your own favorite or useful app, feel free to comment.

06 May 2010

Understanding Baking, Part I

Whenever I'm at your house for une petite soirée, the dessert table features an obligatory tray of lemon bars, as if the Minneapolis Park and Rec Board is going to come shut you down if you don't serve them at every. damn. party. As luck always seems to have it, I am standing at said table just as someone (usually an unhappily single woman wearing a tight dress too young for her) approaches, stops suddenly—as if seeing Jesus fresh from the tomb—and says coos squeals, "OhmygodIjustlovelemonbars!!!!!!" As you smile and say thank you, you catch me stage left rolling my eyes, which I deftly turn into a mini-stroke. Knowing what is now expected of me, I too take a lemon bar (which are not, by the way, all cut to the same size), close my eyes as if about to receive the wisdom of the ages, moan, "Mmmmm," and rub my tummy in a circular motion. As I wander off to find a plant to dump my plate into, I take a little bite and think to myself:

Why do your lemon bars suck?

The recipe is quite simple. That tender crumb crust? A little flour, some powdered sugar, a dash of salt (even if the recipe doesn't tell you to, just throw some in), and a whole lot of butter. You might make your first of several mistakes here. Perhaps you beat the ingredients within an inch of their lives, so that you've completely broken down all the molecules that need to make love during their time in the oven. Or maybe you press the mixture into the pan so hard that no air is left to form flaky layers as the butter melts out of the way. I don't know, but your crust is either tough and vaguely stale, or falling apart completely. And it usually tastes like flour.

The filling isn't much more difficult: beat a lot of sugar and eggs together until smooth. I'm beginning to understand that you have no idea what that means, and a good eight seconds of half-assed mixing seems adequate. But the eggs and sugar have to bind together, and they have to achieve some volume, and that takes some time, like over a minute (and that's with a KitchenAid stand mixer; I shudder to think of the results with your little gravy-encrusted hand mixer from the '70s). All you have left to do is carefully add the lemon juice, stir, sift some flour over the mixture and stir until incorporated. Even as I type, I know that "incorporated" has you throwing your hands in the air, dumping the mixture, flour globules and all, onto the crust (which you didn't bake long enough, by the way; it needs to turn golden brown on top or you're just going to have a rubbery membrane where the crust meets filling), and throw it all back in the oven. If I were a betting man, I'd guess you're on your third drink by now, and that the kitchen looks like hell.

Because you have no idea what "bake until filling is set" means, you do one of two things: you either take them out after exactly 30 minutes, regardless of the temperature of your particular oven, the elevation at which you live, the dew point, or the closing price of the Nikkei; or, just to make sure they're done, you let them bake until the top of the filling starts to turn brown (at which point you should simply pack your bags and request asylum in one of those countries that loves hosting deposed dictators).

All that's left to do is to sift powdered sugar on top of the bars, but you have to wait until they're cool, or you're left with an uneven mess of wet sugar. No one likes that.

The oven timer here at the group home has just beeped, so I need to go check on my lemon bars. I have never made them in my life, and really hope they turn out.

UPDATE: The lemon bars are fantastically good, and Foster Mom insisted on the bunnies.

05 May 2010

Families moving forward

These days, to the question, "Where do you live?" I answer, "I don't know." Or, I'm staying with friends. Or, [throw up entire story here]. I have even called myself homeless. But I am not homeless, and I am ashamed that I have ever jokingly said that, because tonight I am staying with a dozen people who have no home at all. My life is easy. So is yours.

My workplace is a Families Moving Forward site twice each year. For a week, University Lutheran Church of Hope volunteers cook breakfast and dinner, and serve as evening and overnight hosts for several families, part of the organization's efforts to provide temporary emergency shelter. A new family joined the ranks tonight, a young mom and her three very young children. The kids' eyes lit up with disbelief that they each got their own bed for the night. Such pleasure, over an inflatable mattress on the floor.

Of course I'm impressed with the compassion and hard work so many in this congregation offer to make this happen. I'm one of two overnight hosts tonight, and my job is pretty easy: play with an occasional toddler who comes wandering down the hall to my office, toothbrush in hand (this has happened twice in the last fifteen minutes); try to find a radio for a bored teenager to use; blog. I have a mattress set up in my office, and will have a comfortable night, the same comfortable night our guests will have. But tomorrow I'll leave here and stop at a friend's for coffee, go home and go for a run, take a shower, enjoy the day. These folks will get on an early bus and spend the day wading through the intricacies of shelters and social service agencies, small children in tow. They'll come back here tomorrow night, to their spartan, temporary home. They'll do that until Sunday, and then they don't know where they'll be next week. I do; click here if you want to help these families know where home is, next week and every week.

04 May 2010

I will not be a hoarder

Remember that time when you aimed to be terribly productive, but didn't really want to do anything important? Welcome to Tuesday evening. In my current little hovel, I have all that is most precious to me: books, yarn, skinny clothes that no one (least of all me) thought I'd ever wear again, and ten years' worth of Metropolitan Home. Uh huh. Some people would save a favorite pet, perhaps even a child from a burning building. Me? I'd evidently take shelter magazines. To prove to myself that I will not become a sad old woman living with her 42 cats (23 of them still alive), tonight I completed a little project. In preparation, I had spent several moments hours days going through each issue, remembering fondly where I was when I first fell in love with Shamir Shah, or that I could use live succulents to create a vertical wall garden, or how someday I'd have a very narrow, tall Japanese soaking tub. Good times.

But ruthlessness was called for. I put a little post-it note on each page I needed to keep, sometimes a single image, more often an entire article, as well as several recipes (remember homemade ketchup? MetHome, people). This might be a good time to mention that I got teary when I learned MetHome folded last winter. Tonight I culled, cut, and curated, and now have three folders of valuable inspiration and resources for a future home. Good for me. Bad for the producers of Hoarding: Buried Alive.

An iPhone Moment: Streetwalker Edition

I'm pleased that I was able to snap this photo without breaking stride. Just two neighbors meeting in the street to chat, one in her chenille robe, the other in saggy-ass flannel pajamas. Good morning! Howsabout we all go inside and get dressed before greeting our public?
P.S. I have a super cute outfit on today.

03 May 2010

Family matters

I have been reflecting (ugh, it's all I do lately) the last couple days on families: who they are, how they interact, what they mean, especially for us in adulthood. My own familial relationships are complicated, but I'd guess yours are, too. The most intimate part of my family, my primary relationship, has gone away, and so the notion of what family is has to be recalibrated. Along with that absence is the absence of his family, who had become my family, too. Their absence now recalibrates the notion of family for me as well.

But other parts of my family have shot up like spring flowers to fill the void, to mask the bare spot. After a few weeks of spotty communication (surgery, busyness), I talked to my mother last night for an hour. She started the conversation with, "I just want to hear about you." Well, you don't need to ask me twice. After (of course, because this is all I can seem to do the last couple weeks) bursting into tears, we talked and talked, about the past and the future, and it felt great to have a mom to myself for an hour.

A couple weeks ago, at the tail end of my disgusting surgery recovery (maybe we can have a post just devoted to those charming days, or better yet, maybe Sous Blogger and Prof K of Ye Olden Days can fill you in; and does it drive you nuts, these long parentheticals I can't seem to stop with? I'm fairly certain I could never get a book published simply because an editor would need a flowchart to read the manuscript. Anyhoo.), my father came for a visit. He had been in Brookings, SD for a quilt show (which, by the by, is another post for another day). He extended his trip to come see me, and I was a bit apprehensive. If you know me at all you know that my father and I have had a tenuous relationship for many years. I have been grateful for the thaw over the last couple years, and this visit was pure joy to me. To have family come see me in about my sorriest state felt good, and I was reminded just how much he and I have in common (I'll get to that quilt post soon). We talked over a long lunch (mine was apple juice and a single scrambled egg), and my Foster Parents (next paragraph), had him over for dinner that night. We spent a fun evening poring over his six albums of the 250+ quilts he has made (yes, yes, the quilt post). I cried when he left, and was purely happy for like, an hour. 'Twas a good day.

My dear friends Deb and Phil, or, the Foster Parents, have been the truest definition of family to me in the last three months. At a crisis point they prepared a guest room for me in a matter of hours, and I have been here ever since. They have fed me and nurtured me and left me alone and let me sit on their bed and weep and let me be really, really angry (actually they've encouraged that). They nursed me back to health and when that was done they got out the steam cleaner for the rugs (again, a very. bad couple of weeks). We laugh and talk and watch Sarah's House on TV and go on outings; it has been easy and good to be here, and they are—in their own understated, casual way—making sure that someday I will be okay.

And many friends, so many of you, have been family, not just during Boring Scott in Crisis Year, but for so long, in so many ways. What fun it is, as adults, to get to be family to each other: I think it is one of the best parts of being a grownup. I was reminded of that clearly today, thanks to our pal, Facebook. My first cousin, Eric, and I chatted for over an hour today while we both should have been working. Eric and I last saw each other as kids, and over the last few months, sporadically, timidly, we've gotten to know each other a bit, and find that we are insanely alike. That little bit of genetics in common is a fun jumping-off point, a boost to a nascent friendship, but the most fun part of today was to write to each other about real stuff, to relate to each other as adults with a bit of shared history but a lot of mutual respect and goodwill. The lucky bastard lives near California wine country, and when we talked about me visiting someday, I said that I'd happily stay in a B&B (he and his wife have one and a half babies), to which he replied, "No you won't, you'll stay here! You're family!" And I am.

And also? Cousin Eric maybe didn't use so many exclamation points; he's a writer, after all, and you can—and should—buy his novel here.

01 May 2010

Minnesota matters: Cold Spring Bakery

Most small towns had a bakery at one time or another. Not many still do, and of those still around, quite a few are pretty mediocre (yes, I have tried every one). There is, however, a treasure in our fair state, a bakery both unpretentious and decidedly non-stylish. And mercy me can they bake. The Cold Spring Bakery, in Cold Spring, MN is a true treasure; cases of donuts, cookies, bars, cakes. It's not just that the bakery has a huge selection, or that it's all freshly baked: no, it's that every item is as good as that item can possibly be. Take the little pecan rolls in the photo. You taste the burnt sugar of the caramel, the toasted pecans, the salty, yeasty dough (which is incredibly light): perfection. And those maple rolls? No maple flavoring; real, honest-to-goodness maple syrup. The rhubarb bars: light, flaky crust, rich custard. And so on.

The bakery Cold Spring most resembles here in the big city is Baker's Wife, but it's worth the hour drive: west on 94, south on 23. Closed Sundays. Open every other day. Now please excuse me, I have date-filled cookies that require my attention.

P.S. The price for that entire box of goodies? $13.05

They shall be called my disciples.